The ‘Issue’ With ‘Issues’

The following was written during  David S. Craig’s tenure as Artistic Director of Roseneath Theatre to explain the “issues” of writing plays about “issues”.

Roseneath Theatre, where I am Artistic Director and principal playwright, is a contemporary Theatre.  We tell contemporary stories about children as they are right now.  In my opinion, children, right now, have been, in significant ways, abandoned by adults.  Of course, many more children live in families where both parents work but also institutions that used to give form and shape to a young person’s lives (schools, churches, clubs) have been discredited or don’t exist due to costs.  There is no acceptable way for teenagers to act out their dark thoughts and dark passions and so they turn that energy against people and things around them, and against themselves.  As a parent and a father these trends worry me but as a dramatist I simply try and create theatre that reflects these realities.  I believe children are hungry, starving even, for a truthful representation of their lives because most of the representations they do see are motivated not by truth but by profit.

In spite of this great need, I feel (and I need to make clear that I live in English Canada) a great pressure to be “nice”.  Parents, teachers, sponsors, presenters are very, very worried that something in the our plays will “upset the kids”.  That is why so often playwrights must do adaptations of stories that are “well known”.  Everyone feels more comfortable when things are “well known”.  Playwrights spend their time looking for titles that are “well known” instead of creating stories that are new.

The other danger is creating stories that exploit the fear and concern adults have about children and young people.  Children are too thin.  Write a play about it.  Children are too violent.  Write a play about it.  Children take too many drugs.  Write a play about it.  Theatre doesn’t solve problems.  In fact theatre doesn’t even care about problems.  And because it doesn’t care, it is paradoxically, the ideal place to explore problems.  Because what theatre can do is show life as it is and when that is done truthfully the audience will sit in judgement and decide which character is to be admired and which is to be condemned.  It is why theatre is, and has been since the Greeks invented it, one of the most civilizing forces in the world.